Saturday, March 25, 2023

Honestly... To Be Fair

I'd like to check something out with you: when using words like "Fair" and "Respect," how are you defining those words -- and in relation to what?  For instance, I can hear echoes in my mind about "That's not fair!" but the voice seems to have child-like tones, and the memories are usually when I was treated unfairly or disrespectfully.  To be fair, there have been times when I have looked outward at situations when others were treated unjustly and inhumanely... but, to be honest, the majority of the time I am referencing me and my situations!

I wonder how often our mental models are formed -- and remain anchored -- in past situations:  rooted in childhood and centered on how we were treated?

How do you define "Fair" -- and in relationship to whom?
~~ Click on image to enlarge ~~
(Photo credit: Baby Blues, Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott, 02/03/23)

It makes sense that our responses to situations are shadowed by individual experiences, but what happens when we encounter Situations Unknown that require a more Collective Response?  What skills have we developed to help us bridge these Past Echoes and learn to Look Beyond ourselves?

I can't always stop these voices.  After all, I learned how to survive and flourish in the environment of my childhood.  Moving outward, I have learned to notice these tapes playing, and to wonder if there is a broader vision of fairness and respect that goes beyond me.

As we grow older, we are called to look outward at a larger horizon... even when there are clouds that shadow what we see!

Can you get beyond the clouds that shadow your horizon?
(Photo:  Cloudy Ocean - Larry Gardepie)

The skills of observing and noticing give us time to pause and reflect on what we hear -- those inward tapes and outward voices; see -- treatment of Self and Other; and understand -- justices and injustices.  Through these skills, Awareness surfaces and begins to recolor the past and bring brilliance to the present.

How can we see anew the beauty around us?
(Photo: Ocean Sunset - Larry Gardepie)

As we move into this next week, our invitation is to notice when fairness and respect are not present, and to balance the pendulum away from Only Self and Only Other.  Our challenge is to honestly treat everyone fairly.

Peace to you and your Loved Ones!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Fractions of Wholeness

I believe it was in Algebra class that our teacher showed us that mathematically we can never arrive.  We were studying fractions.  He drew a line along the full length of the chalk board (long before whiteboards and Smartboards!).  He marked the left endpoint, A, and the right endpoint, B

Starting from left to right (A to B), he had one of us find the midpoint of the original line.  The next student had to find the midpoint of the remaining line (first midpoint to B); the next student had to find the midpoint of this new line (second midpoint to B); etc.  He was showing that we were moving closer to B, but we never arrived at B:  there was always another midpoint to find (no matter how small the space became).

How much do you want?
(Photo credit: Kid's Math - Introduction to Fractions, Ducksters)

Maybe it's this Mystery of Not Arriving that shaped other beliefs in my life.  For instance, when we look at what we have and what we want (e.g., dividing up a pie), we believe there is never enough to go around.  I have always believed there was more to share!

It's these Mysteries of Not Arriving, Sharing, Accepting, and Wholeness that have always intrigued me.  We can never fully see the Whole unless we share the Pieces.

What do you see?  What do you imagine is missing?
(Photo: unfinished jigsaw puzzle,
Thomas Kinkade - Larry Gardepie)

Working with a non-profit several years ago, we talked through their Mission Statement.  Each director had a slightly different way of understanding how the mission applied to their departments of Client Services, Development, Finance and Administration, and the Kitchen.  It wasn't until this leadership team shared and understood their different perspectives that they could accept the broaden definition of what their organization represented.

Without dialogue (listening to understand) and without curiosity and acceptance, something was always missing... in their discussions and in their decision-making.

Are we ever whole?
(Photo: completed jigsaw puzzle,
Thomas Kinkade - Larry Gardepie)

I assume that because our world is so complex and diverse, we need one another.  Each person has a strength, a talent, a hope and dream that completes who we are.  Remaining in an EITHER-OR ideology removes keys parts of our puzzle.  We will never fully arrive without the other person's thoughts and worldview.

Dialogue does not mean that we give up our values and what we believe to be true.  Instead, when we listen to understand, we expand the sandbox that we are playing in to include a broader view.

My life's goal is to be Whole-y Holy: which means I want to understand you; I want to share what is missing; I want to accept Fractions of Wholeness... so that we all arrive together!

What is your goal?  How might I help?

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Journey or Destination?

Anniversaries are special:  celebrating memories and milestones; picturing who we were then and are now; recalling the ups and downs of the journey that got us where we are today.  Anniversaries are events in and of themselves: one point along the Journey Forward.

When Holland America announced its 150th anniversary, I wanted to be on that celebratory voyage:  a trip from Rotterdam to New York City, duplicating the original Atlantic crossing in 1872, bringing European immigrants to the New World.

A Journey of Hopes and Dreams!

How often do you wait to begin?
(Photo: KLM airline video display of route
from Los Angeles to Amsterdam - Larry Gardepie)

Sitting on that airplane in Los Angeles, I saw the monitor that said "Destination: Amsterdam."  I had already survived the perpetual traffic jam around LAX, the long lines to check in and go through security, walking under the taxiways to get to the extension terminal of Tom Bradley International... I was already tired!

Here I was on the plane, but the destination seemed so far away!


Do we notice the gulf that separates journey and destination?
(Photo: KLM airline video display of route
from Los Angeles to Amsterdam - Larry Gardepie)

My 12-hour flight to Amsterdam could not compare to that original multi-day trip to the New World in 1872, but I wondered about the impatience or fatigue that sets in as we journey towards our destinations.
  What keeps us going?  What helps us to survive?

 Once in Amsterdam, we found transport to Rotterdam and then waited a day to board our vessel home.  One Destination Arrived became another departure point:  I had arrived, but the journey was set to begin again.

When have you arrived... only to find out
it is time to leave?
(Photo: Hotel New York staircase - original home
offices of Holland Amerika Lijn - Larry Gardepie)

I wonder if our movement through life is not about arriving.  Rather, maybe life is about Being Present to where we are now and the direction of our searching.  It is the blending together of Both-And... Journey and Destination and Journey and Destination...  Always-and-Never-Arriving!

In a sense, dialogue is like this:  we think we know someone, but then they do something unexpected.  That is, with assumptions and judgments, we may incorrectly conclude that we know this person and what they will do or say.  When we ask questions and allow curiosity to take over, we are constantly surprised and continue to learn about that person.  Destination reveals itself in Journey, and Journey focuses on the Destination.

What journey are you on now?  Have you shared your hopes and dreams with others?

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Evidenced By Handprints

When the pandemic caused us to close down and isolate, I began going through photos, drawers, boxes, closets, and the garage.  And, now that we are reconnecting, I am still trying to clear out objects and memories that hold me in the past.

One thing I found was a scrapbook that my mother began when I was a child.  I have definitely grown since those footprints and handprints were pasted in those age-weathered pages!  But, have I changed?

Can you see your handprints on a situation?
(Photo credit: 25 Craft Ideas Using Children's Handprints
- Chirping Moms)

An interesting observation about my experience with The Lockdown:  though physically isolated, I found myself drawn closer to family and friends through Zoom sessions... and shared memories that surfaced as a by-product of holding, remembering, and letting go of Treasures.  It was as if Life Refocused on what was important.

Where have you given life to others?
(Photo credit: "The Creation of Adam" by Michelangelo
- Art in Context)

Rather than returning to normal, though, I wanted to see and understand the prints that were left:

  • Am I aware of when you have touched me -- or I you?
  • Has my life changed because of you -- or have you changed because of me?
  • Do we give life to one another?

In essence, as we try to understand the effects of COVID-19 three years later, what have we learned about ourselves?

How have you lifted up others today?
~~ Click on image to enlarge ~~
Photo credit: We Rise By Lifting Other Rainbow
Hand Hearts
- Stupell Industries, Wayfair)

One of the Dialogue Skills encourages us to notice and check the ways that our different roles and communication styles affect dialogue with another person.  As we change roles from being a parent, sibling, work colleague, supervisor, or friend, do we pay attention to the impact on the situation?  Are we aware that we are leaving Our-Prints -- some that remain and some that disappear?

What is your impact on others?
~~ Click on image to enlarge ~~

(Photo credit: My Handprints Poem - Etsy)

You may be wondering:  as I cleaned out my childhood belongings, did I keep the footprints and handprints?  Yes!  I want to be reminded of how I have grown and changed.  I can remember -- but not relive -- childhood.
In a similar manner, we have all been touched by COVID -- and cannot return to normal. There are too many People-Prints, ones where we have been loved and guided -- memories that we don't want to forget or erase -- lives that have impacted us.
May this week be filled with evidence where you have impacted family and friends, and where your life has been touched.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Labeling By Surprise

Have you ever paid attention to the various labels used every day?  I guess at a basic level we are trying to describe what we are seeing and experiencing.  But, I wonder, how often we use words to box people in... to limit or bias the story-telling... to hurt or distance ourselves from others?

It's an eye-opening exercise to notice the labels you might use regularly or the ones you hear between family, friends or work colleagues:  male, female or non-binary; married, single or divorced; black, white, or BIPOC; straight or LGBTQIA+; energetic or lazy; trusted or shady...

The list goes on and on as we try to understand our world and convey thoughts and ideas to another person.

How do you see and describe your world?
(Photo credit: The Harmful Effects of Labeling People
(Ourselves and Others), Plus Finding Hope for the Future

- Leigh Aguirre, Registered Nurse at UCHealth)

I realize that even raising this to our consciousness might be labeled as Woke by some people... which raises more questions about what "woke culture" is and why it has been given a certain framework.  Words and actions are the ways that we communicate our thoughts and feelings to another person:  individuals trying to understand.

As an introvert, my thoughts are often jumbled or half-cooked when I decide to share ideas. Conveying intangible ideas by using language is almost like capturing smoke... as the smoke disappears!

Are we surprised by what we see or hear?
(Photo credit: Is a Surprise More Enjoyable
for the Receiver or the Giver?

- Nici Lucas, The Days of Gifts)

A dialogue practitioner mentioned to me recently her intention to "Keep space to be surprised."  That is, rather than becoming stuck on a word or label used by someone else, her hope is to become more curious, asking questions, and trying to understand the thought behind the word or label.

Rather than remaining on the surface level with the label, it may be more important to understand more deeply what the person is seeing and trying to convey.  Oftentimes, a label can be -- or is -- used to distract or separate us.  Questions and curiosity can focus and draw us together.

How can we bridge what divides us?
(Photo credit: Togetherness without being Together
- Abhineet Mittal)

Surprise might be the key to understanding the intangibles that we cannot see:

  • What does that word or label mean?
  • How is it being used?
  • Why is this important to the other person?

Also, we may be surprised by what we discover when we ask questions, listen, and allow intangible ideas to transform into tangible actions of understanding.

May we be surprised this week when the smoke clears and our intentions are revealed.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Step By Step

Traversing the Panama Canal by water is an all-day event.  First, the ship must have a reservation (date and time) to enter the canal zone.  Second, as you approach the southern locks on the Pacific side or the northern locks on the Atlantic/Caribbean side, the captain and crew are directed by pilots and canal workers to the correct locks.  Third, tugboats (for the new locks) or "mules" (locomotives for the older locks) secure and guide the ship through the three chambers that raise you a total of 85 feet to the level of Gatun Lake (going into the canal) or lower you 85 feet (leaving the canal).  The lake -- created over 100 years ago and renewed each year with torrential rainfall -- powers the canal system and allows passage over the Continental Divide.

It's a day of Steps Choreographed for safe passage, and as a tourist on a cruise ship, I am in awe at human ingenuity that envisioned a way to slice off almost 8,000 miles on a sailing from New York City to San Francisco.

Who has mentored or guided you?
(Photo: moving into 1st chamber of Agua Clara locks,
Panama Canal - Larry Gardepie)

Between 40-45 vessels a day use this 50-mile canal to get products to various parts of the world... that's 14,600 to 16,425 a year!  In fact, the Panama Canal is the most traveled canal in the world... and a wonder of this modern world!

Why am I using the Canal in a dialogue-focused blog?  I had a lot of time to think while walking around the ship: noticing how the ship and land crews communicated; observing the tugboat guide the ship and hold us in place as tons of water rushed into or out of the chambers; and moving to different vantage points to witness this event.

How do you address unequal dynamics?
(Photo: water in the 1st and 2nd chambers equalizing,
Agua Clara locks, Panama Canal - Larry Gardepie)

In many ways, practicing dialogue is similar:

  • Step-by-step moving into new or familiar relationships;
  • Noticing what is important as people guide us with their words and actions;
  • Observing when we feel safe -- or not safe -- as we negotiate equal -- or unequal -- power dynamics; and,
  • Moving physically or evolving mentally to see different points of view.
Also, we cannot expect a closer or more intimate relationship until the doors are opened and we are invited in.

Do you wait for opportunities to open up?
(Photo: moving into 2nd chamber of Agua Clara locks,
Panama Canal - Larry Gardepie)

I would suggest that dialogue is awe-inspiring as well: that is, when we approach another person with respect,
take a Long Loving Look at the Real, and acknowledge that person's Sacred Worth and Value, we are ready to remove months of misunderstanding and mistrust.  And, we are ready to listen when we approach one another with willingness and humility to be guided into safe places for communication and acceptance.
What steps will you take this week to understand a loved one?

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, February 11, 2023

To Understand... To Stand Under... To Support

A friend told me of a Chinese national who was learning English.  When learning about compound words, she would study the meaning of the two separate words (e.g., "under" and "stand") to see how different the newly-joined word ("understand") would be.  Her learning technique was to play with the words as she sounded them out and added them to her English vocabulary.  It was a visual process as she connected her newfound words with her native tongue and Chinese characters.

With Understand, she came to the conclusion that it meant "to stand under" or "to support."  

What a simple and unique way to understand -- or support -- a new thought or concept -- the bridge between one way of thinking and another!

When do you support another person's understanding?
(Photo:  Centennial Bridge,
Panama - Larry Gardepie)

I was thinking of this story and its images as I traveled through the Panama Canal recently: cruising under the bridges that span the canal and the two continents joined by these bridges -- the Bridge of the Americas (1964), the Centennial Bridge (2004), and the Atlantic Bridge (2019).  As traffic flow has increased along the 19,000 mile Pan-American Highway, more support was needed and additional bridges were built to crossover the divide.

What a beautiful metaphor as North, Central and South America learn to understand or bridge our varied cultures!

When do you transfer knowledge to someone else?
(Photo: Pilot and Pilot Boat transfer,
Panama Canal - Larry Gardepie)

At the beginning of our journey, a pilot who knew the canal, its operations, and currents came onboard our vessel to provide information and assistance. Tugboats pulled and guided us through the new locks.

It is that transfer of knowledge that is so important to our lives:  the connections between what we have learned and what is missing; the willingness to rely on others and their experiences; and the humility to accept help and direction.

Do you allow others to assist you along life's pathways?
(Photo:  new Agua Clara locks,
Panama Canal - Larry Gardepie)

Look at the number of compound words in this post:  under-stand; new-found; cross-over;
on-board; and in-formation.  I wonder how these compound words would be translearned by this Chinese national in my friend's story?

I would suggest that all of these words support our dialogue practices:

  • The ability to support (or understand);
  • The openness to explore interactions (newfound crossovers);
  • The eagerness to assist others (onboard) with the transfer of facts and knowledge (information); and
  • To overcome our narrow perceptions (= knowledge).

  May we learn this week to stand under and support one another.


Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Who Knows What About Whom?

You may recognize these names:  Erle Stanley Gardner, Louise Penny, Mickey Spillane, and Margaret Truman.  Each are authors of mystery series that have brought to life Perry Mason, Armand Gamache, and other characters who observe, ask questions, unravel murders, and reveal Secrets Hidden.

Throughout my childhood and into adulthood, there is one constant in my life:  I am curious!  I enjoy solving puzzles!  There is something satisfying about gathering clues, looking at possibilities, and discovering "The Answer"!

How many questions do you ask each day?
(Photo credit:  40 Favorite Interview Questions from Some
of the Sharpest Folks We Know
, First Round Review)

What I am discovering about life, though:  oftentimes, there are numerous possibilities, several answers, or different conclusions to the mysteries that we encounter every day.  This makes Real Life more challenging than a jigsaw puzzle or a book that leads us to one result.

In other words, each person remains a Book Unopened with pages of Mysteries Unsolved... even when we have shared experiences or have lived together for years.

Do you ask questions to prove a point,
to understand, or because you are curious?
(Photo credit:  20 Questions to Get to Know People
or Someone Better,

For instance:  I grew up the second of six children.  We had the same parents, went to the same church, and attended the same schools... but we are so different in our personalities, interests, and occupations.  We haven't lived together for decades, and yet something still binds us together.

What I have noticed in the past year where I've had the opportunity to spend time with each sibling and their loved ones:  we are no longer the same people we were when we grew up together.  The core of who we are may be recognizable.  But as an adult sibling, I can no longer be boxed into my role as second child.  Rather, I am now called to encourage and witness Truth Unfolding.

In essence, we are Strangers Meeting and getting to know one another again... and again... and again!

(Photo credit:  Things to Do with Friends and Family,
The Southern Times

It is that Mystery-of-Knowing-but-Not-Knowing another person that intrigues me.  (Curiosity!)  I cannot assume I know what someone will think, say, or do.  We are constantly changing!  Isn't it better to wait, hold back our assumptions and conclusions... and be surprised?

Like the mystery authors and their famous fictional characters, we are called to observe, ask questions, and unravel the mystery of each person we encounter. 

Isn't that an interesting challenge for us this week?!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, January 28, 2023

To Reframe or Not To Reframe

Have you ever sat for hours in nature, or stared at a painting, a sculpture... or another person?  Rotating an object in your hand or sitting in different places to appreciate another view?  At any moment the object changes... maybe not physically.... but in our mind's eye and what we now see... or understand.

Early on in my life I was fascinated that what I understood before about a person, a situation, or a truth could change over time.  Think of your progression through elementary and high school:  the building blocks of information we received that seemed to change as more information -- and experiences -- entered our lives.

My childhood was filled with endless field trips of learning and being open to new information, insights, and knowledge.

Which facet of an issue do you tend to focus?
(Photo credit:  Diamonds created in minutes at
room temperature, Advanced Science News

Centuries ago Heraclitus said, "The only constant in life is change."  If change is a constant, why am I no longer as flexible with or excited about these daily changes?  As I have grown older, I tend to focus on one side of an issue or problem and don't inquire about or listen to another facet or perspective as much as I did in the past.

The Child Fascinated with change is still within, but what happened in adulthood that tired me of new ways of thinking and the constancy of change?

How do you respond to gloomy forecasts?
(Photo:  Tropical storm over Panama City
- Larry Gardepie)

Mentioning this to a friend recently, I spoke about my fear of becoming Rigid.  He asked what that word meant to me and what I feared.  By slowing down, letting the emotions surface, and talking to another person, I saw how change was constant in my life... but there have always been ebbs and flows of how I managed or responded to change.

For me, the importance of Framing and Reframing the change event must be balanced -- that is, I must:

  • Hold lightly to any long-held values and beliefs;
  • Test any assumptions and conclusions that have framed my understanding; and
  • Consider that others might see, understand, and respond differently (reframing).

I must look and consider from multiple vantage points, moving and reconsidering.

Can you see a different perspective?
(Photo: Arches National Park, Utah
- Larry Gardepie)

Also, I am just beginning to understand that labeling (e.g., being rigid) might limit my ability to stay open to other possibilities and insights.  That is, once I label a situation as Right or Wrong, Good or Bad, Dark or Light, Hopeless or Hopeful I may have entered a cul-de-sac of my life that needs to be explored:

  • Have I created a dead-end in my thought process?
  • Do I believe that I possess the only truth?
  • Am I open to other possibilities? 

Without the ability to reframe a situation -- or a way of thinking, it is as if my finite being no longer wishes to explore the Infinite Wisdom surrounding us and giving meaning to our lives.  We shut off one another!

This week, may we anticipate and explore the changes of this post-COVID world, and may we be open to constant change!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)



Saturday, January 21, 2023

How Can I Help?

One beautiful aspect of being human is our diversity:  we have a variety of likes and dislikes; we approach problems in different ways; and we have the ability to observe and learn.  I think that is why I have enjoyed watching NBC's medical drama series, New Amsterdam.  Each week for five years we were drawn into stories that addressed current issues of bias, misunderstandings, and relationships gone awry.  The writers and actors walked us through ways to talk, listen, and adjust our mental models.

The series finale ended as it began years before: the hospital director asking, "How can I help?"

How can I help?
(Photo credit:  Cast of New Amsterdam,
Showbiz Junkies)

Hearing these four words throughout the series reminded me that we are partners on this Journey Called Life.  By asking the question -- and allowing the other person to answer -- we come to a shared understanding:

  • This is what is needed;
  • My answer may not be yours; and,
  • I don't have to make a decision that disrespects you.

This TV show also modeled various ways to listen and let go: our primary goal is to create safe environments that respect our diversity and differences.

How can I help?
(Photo credit:  Cat helps lost baby duck, Ava Hamric)

In the final season, Max Goodwin, the hospital director, learned sign language because one of his doctors was deaf.  Dr. Iggy Frome, the head of Psychiatry, came to terms with his own insecurities to help those in his care.   Dr. Lauren Bloom, head of the Emergency Department, let go of wanting to take away her sister's addictions.  Dr. Floyd Reynolds, head of General Surgery, found the father that abandoned his family to understand what it meant to be family.

Each person and role struggled to be human, and learned to intentionally help one another:  "How can I help?"

How can I help?
(Photo credit: A Piece of Peace, L. R. Knost)

Five years later I am beginning to understand:  it is okay to be... broken... to not know the answers... to need help... to be human!

If you are looking for a show to binge on a weekend when it is raining or snowing, I would offer New Amsterdam.

May we be willing to ask others:  "How can I help?"  And, may we be willing to listen to and accept the answers.


Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)



Saturday, January 14, 2023

Yet To Unfold

As I listened to my teachers and professors of elementary school, high school, university and graduate school, I felt like a sponge... absorbing information... enjoying the moments of learning and the wonder of new insights.  Later, as a trainer and consultant, I would get excited when ideas and discoveries were shared and awareness was expanded.

I am amazed at connections that occur internally and externally when Light Bulb Moments unite us and drive us to new discoveries.

Each day can surprise us with discovery!

What have you learned today?
(Photo credit:  The Simple Genius of the Blackboard, Slate)

What I have begun to realize, though, is the importance of Unfolding:  the shrinking of one's Awareness Unknown; the openness to Knowledge Shared; and the willingness to Learn Anew

As a child, I would Learn for the Answer, being able to answer a question on a quiz or a test.  The focus was on the collection of information in order to respond correctly.

As time went on and I entered adulthood, I began to understand the difference between Knowledge and Wisdom, being able to hear a question... PAUSE... and consider various approaches to a situation.

It's that ability to accept Unfolding Mystery... there may be More!

How often do you reach out to others?
(Photo: Mermaids Swimming through San Pedro,
San Pedro, California - Larry Gardepie

Practicing Dialogue -- even imperfectly most of the time! -- I am beginning to see another difference:

There is much more than answering correctly as in the earlier:

  • Question -- Answer construct of childhood;

And the later discoveries of:

  • Question -- [Pause] -- Answers understanding of Knowledge and Wisdom.

Now, I am trying to understand a dialogical structure of:

  • Question -- [Pause] -- Exploration.
The emphasis is no longer on An Answer or The Right Answer or Knowledge and Wisdom.  The process is Exploration and Discovery, the lifetime journey of Searching and Encountering.

When have you been a lifeline of understanding?
(Photo:  American Merchant Marines Veteran Memorial,
San Pedro, California - Larry Gardepie)

As a child, I assimilated a lot of information, but I didn't pay attention to the internal processes of filtering and categorizing that information.  When I began to pause in my learning process, I began to realize how some filters were separating me from people and I was labeling others according to my value system.  The Pause allowed me time to consider that Truth could hold many answers.
Practicing dialogue -- listening, asking, and trying to understand -- opens a new reality:  We Are In This Life Together.  If this reality is true, then answering a question correctly may not be as important as the Question itself -- that willingness to ask a question and wonder about the question.
May we reach out this week in a Spirit of Exploration -- seeking understanding and truth; linking us to the Human Lifeline.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)